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Solar STAT Blog

This blog discusses state and local efforts to develop solar markets in the United States. With support from the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, members of NREL's Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) author posts related to events, solar policy analysis, and technical assistance outcomes for the purpose of informing the market in a credible and timely fashion.

Solar on Every Home? Roadmap Outlines Pathways to Ultra-Low Cost Residential Solar

June 19, 2018 by Jeffrey J. Cook

If the solar industry reaches this DOE target, it could dramatically alter the energy market and present a future where residential PV becomes a standard, cost-effective home installation, versus a luxury or long-term investment. A recent NREL report models a set of pathways that the industry could follow to realize this future. The analysis focuses on two key markets for residential PV cost reduction: installing PV at time of roof replacement and installing PV at time of new construction. These two market segments were selected because each offers significant cost reduction opportunities while representing a 30 gigawatt (GW) annual market nationwide. Continue reading

Solar Sheep and Voltaic Veggies: Uniting Solar Power and Agriculture

June 06, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

Sheep grazing in a field of solar panels is becoming an increasingly common sight as both farmers and solar developers are starting to experiment with co-locating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and agriculture. Small-scale, off-grid PV systems located on farm land was one of the first applications of solar power. The arrangement made sense for low-power agricultural needs in locations where running distribution lines was too expensive or not possible. More recently, the idea of solar systems on farm land has expanded to large-scale, grid-connected systems that have vegetation growing around and under the panels and/or livestock grazing on the same parcel of land. Continue reading

Communities Are Becoming "SolSmart" (With Some Help From Their States)

May 23, 2018 by Alexandra Aznar and Megan Day

Two years ago, STAT profiled the launch of our sister program, SolSmart, a U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office designation and technical assistance program that aims to help local governments reduce solar soft costs (i.e. non-hardware costs) and become solar leaders. Since then, over 200 communities nationwide have become designated “SolSmart”. Designated communities have improved their policies and practices in areas such as planning, zoning, permitting, inspection, and community engagement that influence local solar market development. Continue reading

Reducing Energy Burden with Solar: Colorado's Strategy and a Roadmap for States

May 14, 2018 by Jeffrey J. Cook

Low-income residents suffer from a higher energy burden, or ratio of energy expenditures to overall household income, than higher-income households. This higher burden can result in a scenario where residents must choose between paying energy bills and purchasing other necessities. In some circumstances, solar photovoltaics (PV) can reduce this energy burden, but low-income residents face a variety of barriers to solar deployment such as homeownership status, housing assistance, and lack of financing. Some states have taken steps to address these barriers and a recent NREL report details Colorado’s low-income PV strategy and offers a blueprint for other states considering this approach. Continue reading

STAT FAQs Part 2: Lifetime of PV Panels

April 23, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

The Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) receives many interesting and broadly applicable questions from state and local governments. The STAT FAQs blog series will highlight pertinent information as it relates to questions STAT receives. The focus of Part 2 in the series is the productive lifetime and degradation rate of solar PV panels.

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Focusing the Sun: State Considerations for Designing Community Solar Policy

April 14, 2018 by Jeffrey J. Cook

A recent NREL report summarizes community solar policies and examines how policy decisions may influence deployment. The report offers state policymakers a list of key questions to help guide their decision-making process when developing new community solar programs or modifying existing ones. Continue reading

STAT FAQs Part 1: Floating Solar

April 04, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

The Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) receives many interesting and broadly applicable questions from state and local governments. The STAT FAQs blog series will highlight pertinent information as it relates to questions STAT receives. The focus of Part 1 in the series is floating solar. Continue reading

Unlocking Solar for Low- and Moderate-Income Residents: A Matrix of Promising Financing Options

March 26, 2018 by Jeffrey J. Cook

The residential solar market has seen robust growth through the expansion of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) and community solar projects. However, low- and moderate-income (LMI) customers have been under-represented among PV adopters, in large part because they face unique barriers including lower credit scores, limited savings to support upfront PV investments, and being more likely to rent than own their homes. Eliminating the impact of barriers could result in more equitable access to PV, while expanding the overall PV market. Continue reading

When Does Energy Storage Make Sense? It Depends.

February 25, 2018 by Lars Lisell

Energy storage can be confusing. The technology adds value to electrical systems by charging when there is excess energy on the system, storing the power until it is required, then discharging when the energy system requires additional energy. Unlike traditional generators that turn fuel into electricity, an energy storage system is used to move energy around. A few common applications for energy storage include moving energy use from a period of low consumption to a period of high consumption, storing renewable generation to be used at night, or storing grid power to be used during periods of grid outage. For an energy storage system to make economic sense, the value of providing this service to a facility or the electrical system must exceed the cost of the energy storage system. How can a consumer determine if an energy storage system makes sense for a facility? The answer often lies in the utility bill. Continue reading

The Solar Energy Trifecta: Solar + Storage + Net Metering

February 12, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

Pairing solar-plus-storage with net metering has received minimal policy attention to-date because energy storage has, until recently, seen limited deployment. While this policy question may seem obscure, it is starting to pop up in other states as pairing energy storage with solar energy systems becomes more economical. Continue reading